The tsunami that hit the coast of Japan on March 11, 2011 caused the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. In the days following the tsunami, reactors within the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant exploded and leaked radiation into the environment. The United States announced a relief effort led by the Navy – Operation Tomodachi – in which 70,000 Department of Defense-affiliated personnel contributed to providing humanitarian aid to those affected.
Now, three years later, some Navy personnel say they’re experiencing mysterious symptoms, including hemorrhaging and cancer. In some cases, their doctors can’t provide diagnoses and therefore cannot determine if the illnesses are radiation-related. Convinced their illnesses were caused by radiation exposure, 71 of these sailors are banding together in a lawsuit against the Tokyo Electric Power Company – or TEPCO – which operates the Fukushima power plant.
The U.S. government released a statement denying that radiation has caused these illnesses:
“After extensive environmental monitoring and analysis, it has been determined that none of the nearly 70,000 members of the [Department of Defense]-affiliated population … are known to have been exposed to radiation at levels associated with adverse medical conditions.”
Two sailors who are a part of the lawsuit shared their stories with Al Jazeera.
Former U.S. Navy Officer Michael Sebourn
Senior Chief Michael Sebourn was assigned to investigate radiation levels in the air and on American military aircraft going in and out of Sendai and Fukushima in the weeks after the earthquake. After seeing at least 10 doctors and undergoing three MRIs and two ultrasounds, he still doesn’t know what’s wrong with him.
Since returning home, Sebourn says he very suddenly lost 50 to 60 percent of the power in the right side of his body. This shocked him when he walked into the gym one day and could only do his workout on his left side – he says his right side just didn’t work. Sebourn also says his right arm is now an inch-and-a-half shorter than his left when he flexes – another mystery.